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  1. #1 Washing machine 'did more to liberate women than the Pill' 
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    In a long editorial marking International Women's Day, L'Osservatore Romano, the mouthpiece of the Roman Catholic Church, said washing machines had freed generations of women from the drudgery of housework.

    "The washing machine and the emancipation of women: put in the powder, close the lid and relax," said the broadsheet's headline, above a black and white picture of two women in the 1950s admiring a front-loading machine.

    "In the 20th century, what contributed most to the emancipation of western women?" asked the editorial.

    "The debate is still open. Some say it was the pill, others the liberalisation of abortion, or being able to work outside the home. Others go even further: the washing machine." The first rudimentary washing machines appeared as far back as 1767, noted the article, with the first electrical models being produced at the beginning of the 20th century.

    The eulogy to a domestic convenience which most women in developed countries now take for granted quoted the words of the late American feminist, Betty Friedan, who in 1963 described "the sublime mystique to being able to change the bed sheets twice a week instead of once".

    While early models were expensive and unreliable, technology had improved to the point that there is now "the image of the super woman, smiling, made-up and radiant among the appliances of her house," wrote the Vatican newspaper.

    The article provoked an angry response from some commentators and politicians.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...-the-Pill.html
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  2. #2  
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    It comes out about even, I think. The washing machine made it easier to do laundry; the pill cut down the number of loads.
    "Today, [the American voter] chooses his rulers as he buys bootleg whiskey, never knowing precisely what he is getting, only certain that it is not what it pretends to be." - H.L. Mencken
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    Quote Originally Posted by linda22003 View Post
    It comes out about even, I think. The washing machine made it easier to do laundry; the pill cut down the number of loads.

    Good one!
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    Quote Originally Posted by noonwitch View Post
    Good one!
    I am pretty sure she has had her fair share of loads so I guess lindanumbers knows what she is talking about. :D
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lars1701a View Post
    I am pretty sure she has had her fair share of loads so I guess lindanumbers knows what she is talking about. :D
    I do, indeed. Our washday only comprises about three loads per week.
    "Today, [the American voter] chooses his rulers as he buys bootleg whiskey, never knowing precisely what he is getting, only certain that it is not what it pretends to be." - H.L. Mencken
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    Quote Originally Posted by linda22003 View Post
    I do, indeed. Our washday only comprises about three loads per week.
    If telling me that makes the bad memories go away, go right ahead and tell me.
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    I don't know that washing machines per se were more important to the advancement of women's freedom than the pill but it might be pretty close.

    People really underestimate what a huge impact technology has had on women. Back in the day, wash day involved making and maintaining a steady fire to heat water, lugging the water to a tub (or tubs), sorting and scrubbing the clothing with homemade soap, lugging more water for a first rinse, lugging more water for boiling work clothes, and this didn't count the water for starching. Then the loads were wrung out and hauled to the line to dry. Dry clothing was ironed with an iron that needed it's own coal supply.

    You still had to clean everything up and put it away after that. Wash Day was actually an entire day.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lars1701a View Post
    If telling me that makes the bad memories go away, go right ahead and tell me.
    The only bad memories are from before my husband learned to separate light and dark washloads. You do understand that this is all about laundry, right?
    "Today, [the American voter] chooses his rulers as he buys bootleg whiskey, never knowing precisely what he is getting, only certain that it is not what it pretends to be." - H.L. Mencken
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gingersnap View Post
    I don't know that washing machines per se were more important to the advancement of women's freedom than the pill but it might be pretty close.

    People really underestimate what a huge impact technology has had on women. Back in the day, wash day involved making and maintaining a steady fire to heat water, lugging the water to a tub (or tubs), sorting and scrubbing the clothing with homemade soap, lugging more water for a first rinse, lugging more water for boiling work clothes, and this didn't count the water for starching. Then the loads were wrung out and hauled to the line to dry. Dry clothing was ironed with an iron that needed it's own coal supply.

    You still had to clean everything up and put it away after that. Wash Day was actually an entire day.
    Ginger, have you ever read Robert Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson? It is still being published (over a twenty year project so far!) but in the first volume there is a chapter called "The Sad Irons" which is unforgettable. Caro doesn't just describe Johnson's efforts on rural electrification. He describes vividly what life was like in the Texas Hill Country before electricity, by talking to women who lived it. By the time he gets to the end of that chapter, you understand why people would die for Lyndon Johnson. By the time I got to the end of that chapter, I had to take a nap.

    Here's part of an interview where Caro talks about this:
    "When I was interviewing in the Hill Country, no matter what I was talking to people about, I found that one phrase was repeated over and over again: "He brought the lights. No matter what Lyndon was like, we loved him because he brought the lights." They were talking about the fact that when Johnson became congressman from the Hill Country in 1937, at the age of twenty-eight, there was no electricity there. And by 1948, when he was elected to the Senate, most of the district had electricity.

    Because I was from New York City, and electricity was always just there, the full significance of the fact went right over my head for quite some time, I'm sorry to say. I understood intellectually that he had brought electricity, but I didn't understand what electricity meant in the lives of impoverished farm families, or what their lives had been like in this isolated and remote region without it. ...

    Because there was no electricity, there were no electric pumps, and water had to be hauled up--in most cases by the women on the farms and the ranches, because not only the men but the children, as soon as they were old enough to work, had to be out in the fields. The wells in the Hill Country were very deep because of the water table--in many places they had to be about seventy-five feet deep. And every bucket of water had to be hauled up from those deep wells. The Department of Agriculture tells us that the average farm family uses two hundred gallons of water a day. That's seventy-three thousand gallons, or three hundred tons, a year. And it all had to be lifted by these women, one bucket at a time.

    I didn't know what this meant. They had to show me. Those women would say to me, "You're a city boy. You don't know how heavy a bucket of water is, do you?" So they would get out their old buckets, and they'd go out to the no-longer-used wells and wrestle off the heavy covers that were always on them to keep out the rats and squirrels, and they'd lower a bucket and fill it with water. Then they'd say, "Now feel how heavy it is." I would haul it up, and it was heavy. And they'd say, "It was too heavy for me. After a few buckets I couldn't lift the rest with my arms anymore." They'd show me how they had lifted each bucket of water. They would lean into the rope and throw the whole weight of their bodies into it every time, leaning so far that they were almost horizontal to the ground. And then they'd say, "Do you know how I carried the water?" They would bring out the yokes, which were like cattle yokes, so that they could carry one of the heavy buckets on each side.

    Sometimes these women told me something that was so sad I never forgot it. I heard it many times, but I'll never forget the first woman who said it to me. She was a very old woman who lived on a very remote and isolated ranch--I had to drive hours just to get out there--up in the Hill Country near Burnet. She said, "Do you see how round-shouldered I am?" Well, indeed, I had noticed, without really seeing the significance, that many of these women, who were in their sixties or seventies, were much more stooped and bent than women, even elderly women, in New York. And she said: "I'm round-shouldered from hauling the water. I was round-shouldered like this well before my time, when I was still a young woman. My back got bent from hauling the water, and it got bent while I was still young." Another woman said to me, "You know, I swore I would never be bent like my mother, and then I got married, and the first time I had to do the wash I knew I was going to look exactly like her by the time I was middle-aged."

    To show me--the city boy--what washdays were like without electricity, these women would get out their old big "Number 3" zinc washtubs and line them up--three of them--on the lawn, as they had once every Monday. Next to them they'd build a fire, and they would put a huge vat of boiling water over it.

    A woman would put her clothes into the first washtub and wash them by bending over the washboard. Back in those days they couldn't afford store-bought soap, so they would use soap made of lye. "Do you know what it's like to use lye soap all day?" they'd ask me. "Well, that soap would strip the skin off your hands like it was a glove." Then they'd shift the clothes to the vat of boiling water and try to get out the rest of the dirt by "punching" the clothes with a broom handle--standing there and swirling them around like the agitator in a washing machine. Then they'd shift the clothes to the second zinc washtub--the rinsing tub--and finally to the bluing tub.

    The clothes would be shifted from tub to tub by lifting them out on the end of a broomstick. These old women would say to me, "You're from the city--I bet you don't know how heavy a load of wet clothes on the end of a broomstick is. Here, feel it." And I did--and in that moment I understood more about what electricity had meant to the Hill Country and why the people loved the man who brought it. A dripping load of soggy clothes on the end of a broomstick is heavy. Each load had to be moved on that broomstick from one washtub to the other. For the average Hill Country farm family, a week's wash consisted of eight loads. For each load, of course, the woman had to go back to the well and haul more water on her yoke. And all this effort was in addition to bending all day over the scrubboards. Lyndon's cousin Ava, who still lives in Johnson City, told me one day, "By the time you got done washing, your back was broke. I'll tell you--of the things in my life that I will never forget, I will never forget how my back hurt on washdays." Hauling the water, scrubbing, punching the clothes, rinsing: a Hill Country wife did this for hours on end; a city wife did it by pressing the button on her electric washing machine.

    Tuesday was ironing day. Well, I don't intend to take you through the entire week here, but I'll never forget the shock it was for me to learn how hard it was to iron in a kitchen over a woodstove, where you have to keep throwing the wood in to keep the temperature hot all day. The irons--heavy slabs of metal--weighed seven or eight pounds, and a Hill Country housewife would have four or five of them heating all day. In the Hill Country it's nothing for the temperature to be 100 or even 105 degrees, and those kitchens would be like an oven. The women of the Hill Country called their irons the "sad irons." I came to understand why."


    http://www.randomhouse.com/knopf/aut...esktopnew.html
    "Today, [the American voter] chooses his rulers as he buys bootleg whiskey, never knowing precisely what he is getting, only certain that it is not what it pretends to be." - H.L. Mencken
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  10. #10  
    That's a good intro to just how hard it was. I grew up on a ranch long after propane and electricity were available but it didn't always work out there and so we did have to haul water by hand sometimes (for us but more importantly - for the stock). It's a horrible job and we used hand pumps.

    I have a huge amount of gratitude for all these real labor-saving devices. I can make a fire but I don't have to. I know how to take care of oil lamps and trim wicks but my house isn't covered in soot because I use them every day. I can sew by hand but I don't need to. I don't have to stoke a stove or a boiler all day long to have heat or hot water.

    All the people I know who complain about how back-breaking housework is today need to STFU.
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